Summer for the work-outside-the-home mom
The meaning of summer has changed many times during my life.
When I was a child, summer meant going to the pool with my grandma, swimming in the creek, biking with my brother, begging for a treat from the ice cream truck and staying up past nightfall.
In high school, summer meant a part-time job, band camp and reading lists.
In college, summer meant working at a Christian camp, shopping for clothes I didn’t really need and occasionally reuniting with high school friends.
Family excursions to Cedar Point and Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., have been staple trips during many of my life’s summers.
Even my second “real job” after college graduation – working in communications for a school district – granted me a six-week summer break. For the first three summers of Elliot’s life, I was home with him, with lots of time for long walks, playground trips, pool excursions and ice cream cones.
For the past four years, however, I have lived the life of a full-time, work-outside-the-home mom. (Notice I did not categorize myself as a “working mom.” All moms work, and we all work hard. Besides, there is too much blurring of the working and stay-at-home lines to put women in those black-and-white boxes. Too much gray, if you will. So I prefer the term work-outside-the-home mom. Perhaps there’s an acronym opportunity there: WOTH mom. Also, please, let us not engage in a work-outside-the-home mom vs. stay-at-home mom debate. They are both difficult choices with pros and cons. Let’s just settle on this: All moms work hard.)
So, as a full-time, WOTH mom, here’s what summer means to me now.
Summer means finding and deciding on child care for my school-aged son – not an easy task when many daycare centers are eliminating their elementary summer programs. It means poring over summer camp possibilities, only to find that most of them are half-day activities or programs that end at 2:30 p.m. Not exactly feasible for the average WOTH mom.
Summer means my 6-year-old has to learn a new schedule, obey new teachers and meet new friends. After making such great progress improving his behavior in kindergarten, he is back at square one. And, in two short months, he will be making the transition to first grade.
Summer means I signed up Elliot for the “Principal’s Challenge” at his school. If he completes the workbook we received and reads 500 minutes during the summer, he gets a reward when he starts first grade. But I have to keep track of the minutes by filling out a paper and signing it every day. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I’m sure I’ll find that green piece of paper at some point. Until then, I’ve started stacking the books we’ve read on the little table in his room. That way, I can remember what we’ve read, and he’ll get his reward. Maybe.
Summer means accepting that many of my son’s classmates and friends see June, July and August as three blissful months of fun. These children’s moms don’t work outside the home or are teachers during the school year, so they post on Facebook about all their wonderful summer activities. It leaves many of us WOTH moms feeling guilty for boarding up our offspring in summer daycare programs. (I know this has a lot to do with perception. Facebook is often only those moms’ highlight reels.)
Summer means I have the chance to work longer hours because the daycare center is open later than the school. Crazy as it sounds, this is quite tempting – the opportunity to make a little more money, to get a little more work done.
Summer means nothing different for my 14-month-old daughter. She is still in the toddler room at the daycare center, still playing with her little toddler friends, still napping on her cot.
Summer means hoping I can find the time and energy to use the family pool passes we purchased because buying them is a better deal than paying pool admission every time we go. It’s a better deal only if we use them 10 times. Clearly, I am a sucker for a bargain.
Summer means cooking steak and corn on the cob and baked potatoes on the grill. We eat watermelon by the pound until we are sick to the stomach and drink iced tea with a spritz of lemon. We always have popsicles and ice cream sandwiches in the freezer. Bathing suits and beach towels are drying on every railing and hook throughout the house, and flip-flops of every color and size are strewn across the living room floor.
Summer means weekend trips to my parents’ house, where my children run in the huge yard with its freshly cut grass. They play on the porch while the grown-ups sway on the swing and in rocking chairs. I let the kids stay up late while my dad makes a fire, where we roast marshmallows for s’mores and stare at the flames, mesmerized by their color and movement and beauty. We sit and talk and laugh until it’s well past dusk and everyone smells like ashes.
Summer means fresh, local, organic produce from our CSA (community-supported agriculture) and from my parents’ garden, which was tilled and planted with help from my Elliot. He loves to check on the garden during every visit, especially observing “his” sunflowers, the seeds for which he contributed all by himself.
In many ways, summer is no different for my family than any other time of year. My husband and I are still working outside the home, and our children are at the daycare center.
Interestingly enough, though, my mom and dad were full-time, work-outside-the-home parents, and I have many wonderful childhood memories of those long, warm summer days. This gives me hope that my children will always remember summer fondly, too. And to all my fellow WOTH moms, so will your children.
Originally published on ovparent.com.